Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason participated in a CBC radio panel discussion this morning on the decision of Prime Minister Elect Justin Trudeau to pull Canada out of the US-led bombing campaign against Islamic State (The Current, CBC, 23 October 2015).
The other panelists were Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, and Chris Sands, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
Here are some points to consider when listening to the discussion:
In the civil wars waged in the last 25 years, only 7% have ended with government forces defeating the rebels.
85% of civil wars come to a hurting stalemate, after untold bloodshed and suffering, with all of the political problems underlying the conflict made even more difficult to address.
In short, peace cannot be won on the battlefield.
(Source: Disarming Conflict: Why Peace Cannot be Won on the Battlefield, by Ernie Regehr )
Despite the massive amount of bombs dropped by the American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has continued to gain territory in Syria and is well–entrenched in Anbar province, the Sunni heartland in Iraq. Only Iranian-backed Shia militias, greatly feared by the Sunnis, are preventing Islamic State from making further headway in Iraq. Turkey, a member of the western coalition, is spending more time bombing Kurdish separatists in Iraq than going after Islamic State, and now Russia has entered the military fray.
Putin wants to preserve Russian influence (and military bases) in Syria, but the Russians also quite rightly fear that a collapse of the Assad government would leave Islamic State in control and able to directly threaten Russia in the Caucuses.
However brutal the Assad government has been in this horrific civil war, there is simply no alternative ‘strong man’ who can hold the country together and stave off a far worse regime. This is the hard, hard lesson of Libya.
It is time to get behind UN-led negotiations for a national unity government in Syria, bringing together everyone but the hardest of hardliners. With the backing of the West and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran and Russia on the other, this is the only hope of stopping the bombing by Assad of his own people AND a complete takeover of Syria by Islamic State.
Click here for the complete panel discussion.